Today is National Chocolate Cake Day, and although it is not an officially recognized holiday, the Clements Library is celebrating it by offering a short history of the evolution of chocolate cake in the United States – and by trying our hand at cooking a chocolate cake recipe from our culinary collection.
Until the 1830s or 40s in America, chocolate was consumed primarily as a beverage. Cakes as we think of them today did not yet exist in this country. In fact, what was popularly understood as "chocolate cake" was in fact a white or yellow cake to be eaten while drinking a chocolate beverage. Although chocolate began to be used in sauces and frostings, the primary understanding of chocolate as a liquid treat continued into the beginning of the 20th century.
|"Food for the Gods," Bensdorp's Cocoa (1898). From Culinary Ephemera Box 170: Cocoa and Chocolate.|
|Chocolate cake recipe from Linda Larned's The Hostess of To-Day (1899).|
|Lowney's "Always Ready" Sweet Chocolate Powder advertisement, from Lowney's Cook Book (1912).|
|Hershey's Recipes (1940). From Culinary Ephemera Box 170: Cocoa and Chocolate.|
The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe (1996).